by Luc O Cinnseala
Mexico City is a museum-lover’s paradise. DF, as it’s known to locals, has every kind of museum and art gallery you could want, from the grand and busy to the hidden and niche. Its total count is over 150, leading the city’s tourism officials to declare that it has more museums than any other city in the world. Paris, by comparison, has about 130 so there might be some weight to the claim.
No amount of time in the city will be enough to explore every museum but you should definitely plan to take in as many as you can, while making sure not to rush your visit to any.
1. Museo Nacional de Antropología
With so many different cultures and civilisations making up modern-day Mexico, it’s only right that lip service be paid to them.
Housing 120,000 items, the National Museum of Anthropology manages to give a thorough overview of Mexico’s cultural DNA with simple displays of impressive artefacts and engaging multimedia in 23 thoughtfully planned rooms.
It’s both the largest and most-visited museum in the country and is every bit worth popping your head into if you have anywhere from two hours to two days free.
Aside from its fascinating subject matter, the museum is architecturally astonishing. The complex is composed of a vast courtyard surrounded by the two-storey museum. Above the courtyard is an improbably large canopy held up by a single pillar with a torrent of water falling around it—basically, a free-standing urban waterfall.
How much? Adult M$64 (€3)
When’s it open? Tuesday-Sunday 9am-7pm
2. Museo Memoria y Tolerancia
The Museum of Memory and Tolerance‘s name probably doesn’t quite do justice to how difficult its subject matter is.
Opening in 2010 on Alameda Central, DF’s idyllic downtown park, this museum doesn’t hold back in informing visitors about the horrors of genocide and ethnic cleansing.
Passing through its 55 rooms, you learn about crimes against humanity from the Holocaust to later atrocities in Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Cambodia, Armenia, Guatemala and Darfur.
It’s certainly not the most light-hearted excursion but is extremely worthwhile.
How much? M$69 (€3.30)
When’s it open? Tuesday-Friday 9am-6pm | Saturday and Sunday 10am-7pm
Metro: Bellas Artes
3. Museo Frida Kahlo
Every year, tens of thousands of art fans make the pilgrimage to Colonia del Carmen in southern DF to pay homage to Frida Kahlo, one of the most celebrated artists of all time. Kahlo was born and died in La Casa Azul (The Blue House) and spent the majority of her life living there with her husband, the legendary Mexican muralist Diego Rivera.
Walking through the house, visitors get to see the art and artefacts that interested and inspired this artistic couple. Kahlo’s ashes are in an urn along with her death mask in her final bedroom.
In the house, Frida and Diego hosted notable figures like George Gershwin and an exiled Leon Trotsky, the latter of whom had an affair with Kahlo.
Ignoring its two particular residents and A-list visitor book, a trip to the house is just an interesting insight into how this neighbourhood’s wealthy bohemians lived in the 1930s.
Be warned that you may find yourself queuing for over an hour to gain admission so beating the crowd with an early morning arrival is a good idea.
How much? Mon – Fri M$120 (€5.80), Sat & Sun M$140 (€6.80), student M$40 (€1.90)
When’s it open? Tuesday and Thursday-Sunday 10am-5:45pm | Wednesday 11am-5:45pm
Metro: Coyoacán (plus a 15-minute walk)
For some extracurricular learning, visit the National Palace (Palacio Nacional) on Zócalo square in Downtown DF to see Rivera’s magnum opus, ‘The Epic of the Mexican People’, a series of huge murals which trace the history of colonialism in Mexico from 1521 until 1930.
4. Museo de el Carmen—‘The Mummy Museum’
Situated in a former monastery in the southern suburbs of Mexico City in relative proximity to the Frida Kahlo Museum, this museum falls under the category of Hidden and Niche.
Museo de el Carmen contains stunning examples of Mexican religious art along with some furniture from the Carmelite monastery.
These, alone, are worth a visit and, so far, this isn’t anything out of the ordinary. However, the big draw for many visitors is a collection of 12 mummies, which are on display in the crypt. The bodies, believed to be former parishioners, were naturally mummified and have been on display since 1929.
How much? M$52 (€2.50) / Free on Sundays
When’s it open? Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm
Metrobus: La Bombilla
Metro: Miguel Ángel de Quevedo
5. Museo de Tequila y Mezcal
When you lay eyes upon the Tequila and Mezcal museum, you could be forgiven for writing it off as a cheap tourist trap. After all, its glass exterior walls are covered in giant images of leaves of the agave plant, from which the two drinks visitors are here to learn about are made.
Inside is an engaging museum about the production of two of Mexico’s most famous exports. The story is told by displaying equipment and putting on show a beyond-impressive selection of different bottles and brands from the past and present.
Afterwards, enjoy a drink on its indoor/outdoor roof bar, which overlooks Plaza Garibaldi, notable as the square where the city’s Mariachi bands congregate and play every night. Best of all, the museum is open until 11:30pm Thursday to Saturday.
How much? M$50 (€2.40)
When’s it open? Sunday-Wednesday 1pm-10pm | Thursday-Saturday 1pm-11:30pm
Metro: Bellas Artes or Garibaldi
6. Museo del Enervante
This museum’s official name doesn’t give a lot away but its nickname Museo Del Narco sheds a bit more light on its contents. This hidden museum displays some items and artefacts that belonged to some of Mexico’s most notorious drug kingpins.
The bad news? It’s housed in the building of the Secretariat of National Defence in suburban Mexico City, is off limits to the general public. Only certain government staff, students and invited guests are allowed in.
Maybe an evolving global interested in Mexico’s drug war will open its doors in future.
How much? It doesn’t matter
When’s it open? Never
Metro: We can’t say
Website: There is none
Where to stay?
Massiosare El Hostel
Located a five-minute walk from Alameda Central Park, the cosy Massiosare El Hostel is an ideal and comfortable choice in Mexico City. Its comfy common area and rooftop terrace are great for unwinding and planning your next day of sightseeing while its staff will go out of their way to make sure your stay is perfect.
Mexico City Hostel